After Previous Panel Rejected Uniform Civil Code, Law Commission Seeks Public Views Afresh

The latest notification from the government's top law advisory body for fresh consultation comes even after the 21st Law Commission had made it clear that a uniform civil code "is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage".

New Delhi: Even after the 21st Law Commission of India in August 2018 made it clear that a uniform civil code (UCC) “is neither necessary nor desirable at this stage“, the 22nd Law Commission on Wednesday, June 14, issued a fresh notification to elicit views from various stakeholders – including public and religious organisations – on the matter.

The notification said interested persons or organisations have 30 days of time to submit their views to the Law Commission in the form of consultation/discussion/working papers on any of the issues pertaining to UCC.

The latest panel does refer to the consultation paper published by the previous commission in August 2018 but does not explain the reason for carrying out another round of consultations. “Since more than three years have lapsed from the date of issuance of the said consultation paper, bearing in mind the relevance and importance of the subject and also the various court orders on the subject, the 22nd Law Commission considered it expedient to deliberate afresh over the subject,” the latest notification said.

The notice adds that after the reference dated June 17, 2016 was sent by the Ministry of Law & Justice, the 22nd Law Commission has been examining the subject matter.

In August 2018, a 185-page consultation paper on “Reforms of Family Law” by the 21st Law Commission said, “Cultural diversity cannot be compromised to the extent that our urge for uniformity itself becomes a reason for threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.”

It was categorical in stating that a unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity” and that “efforts have to be made to reconcile our diversity with universal and indisputable arguments on human rights”. Differences do not always imply discrimination in a robust democracy, the government’s top law advisory body had asserted.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called the latest notification “Modi government’s desperation for a legitimate justification of its continuing agenda of polarisation and diversion from its glaring failures”.

Ramesh also took a dig at the Law Commission: “The Law Commission has produced an enviable body of work over the decades on numerous issues of national importance. It should be mindful of that legacy and remember that the interests of the nation are distinct from the political ambition of the BJP.”

The UCC is one of the ideological standpoints of the BJP, saying that different property and matrimonial laws for people of different religions and denominations are an “affront to national unity“. It has relied on Article 44 of the constitution to push its view. The particular constitutional provision mandates the state to “secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. However, those opposed to the BJP’s position view the UCC as a way for it to target minorities, particularly the Muslim community.